December 18, 2002
The SORCE spacecraft has been in a hold mode since Thanksgiving, awaiting arrival of the Pegasus launch vehicle from assembly facilities in California. The delivery of the launch vehicle has been delayed due to a wing bond problem and reliability concerns with onboard actuators. These issues have been successfully cleared and the launch vehicle arrived at KSC aboard the L1011 OCA (Orbital Carrier Aircraft) December 17th (see attached pictures). The launch vehicle is currently in the process of being detached from the OCA and transported to the MPPF (Multi-Payload Processing Facility). This activity is expected to be completed by end-of-day December 18th. The additional photo is a shot of the LSST (Launch Site Support Trailer) where all of the final pre-launch "Hot Pad" activities will be run from. The primary "Hot Pad" activity associated with the LSST is a launch minus 8 hour sequence of events that includes a final turn-on and checkout of spacecraft subsystems.
Recent spacecraft activities have included a new Instrument Module (IM) Microprocessor (MU) SUROM load which was installed during the week of December 9th. The new load was implemented to address some potential concerns that had recently been uncovered by a component manufacturer. The focus this week (December 16th) is on battery conditioning and a 48 hour operations exercise to verify the the integrity of the new SUROM load. There are no activities scheduled for the Christmas week. Pre-launch activities resume December 31st when initial preparations for mating of the spacecraft to the launch vehicle begin. The month of January shows a heavy schedule of tasks in anticipation of a January 25th launch.
November 15, 2002
As reported in the previous update, the SORCE launch, which was scheduled for December 13th, had to be moved forward to accommodate repairs to key launch vehicle electromechanical actuators. Because of the conflicts with other scheduled launches at KSC, the shift was significant, moving the new proposed launch date to January 25, 2003. The pre-launch activities schedule has been updated to reflect the forward shift and the spacecraft will be maintained in a secured "moth-balled" state until the first week in December. The launch vehicle rework is progressing on schedule and no further delays in that regard are anticipated.
This week, the SORCE team, made up of individuals from LASP, OSC, and NASA, took part in a mission dress rehearsal at LASP SORCE Operations facilities. The dress rehearsal was a run-through of launch and post-launch activities, with simulated "what-if" events to test the teams responsiveness to the types of situations that could arise during the actual launch and post-launch commissioning phases. It was the second rehearsal in a series of three and was a great success. It's really impressive to observe these folks in action and to know that we will have a very cohesive, well-prepared team come launch day!
November 7, 2002
The SORCE Pre-ship Review (PSR) was held at Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) in Dulles, Virginia on October 21, 2002. This was the last formal review of SORCE Spacecraft I & T activities at OSC and the final "gate" to shipment to the launch site at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The PSR reviewers, made up of personnel from NASA, OSC, and industry consultants, gave the go-ahead for shipment and complemented the LASP/OSC/NASA team for their "exemplary" performance during all phases of the development of the SORCE Observatory. Under the glow of well deserved praise, the SORCE team proceeded to pack the spacecraft and support equipment for shipment to KSC. All indications at this point were positive for making the December 1st launch date. Less than 24 hours later plans were forced to change when it was learned that the launch vehicle had uncovered a problem with a silicon joint associated with a bond line seal in the vehicle wing assembly. A failed "coupon test" of the bonding material caused enough concern to warrant the rework of the joint with a new batch of bond material. The downside for the SORCE program was a projected schedule delay of approximately 2 weeks. The ultimate ripple effect was the slippage of the proposed launch date from December 1st to December 13th. That in turn raised the question of possibly delaying the shipment of the spacecraft. After much discussion, the pros of proceeding with shipment won out over the cons. So, shortly after noon on Friday, October 25th, with 3 days of packing and loading completed, the ground transport truck carrying the SORCE hardware, and a support vehicle, left OSC for the relatively short jaunt to Coco Beach, Florida. The transport crew had an uneventful trip and arrived at KSC facilities early Saturday morning (October 26th) after an all night drive. They were met by the other members of the SORCE team that had flown in the previous evening and proceeded to unload, unpack, and set up operations in a Multi-Payload Processing Facility (MPPF) located in the KSC Industrial Park. After setup, various functional and operations tests and final mechanical closeout activities were performed. All post-ship functional verifications were nominal and on November 5th, the spacecraft was safed for temporary storage (anticipated to last less than two weeks) and the team dispersed to take a short well deserved break. The SORCE program had received notification that the launch vehicle rework had been successfully completed and that the targeted December 13th launch date looked achievable. The next major activity is mating of the spacecraft with the launch vehicle.
On November 6th, the SORCE management and system engineering folks traveled to Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to participate in a high level Mission Readiness Review (MRR). Once again, more late breaking news indicated that there was yet another launch vehicle concern which centered around the mechanical integrity of on-board critical function actuators. This discovery has subsequently grounded the entire Pegasus fleet of launch vehicles and will take approximately three weeks (in SORCE's case) to resolve. All current indications are that this will now push the SORCE launch into the late January time frame, primarily due to conflicts with previously scheduled launches. The planned ferry of the SORCE launch vehicle from processing facilities at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, currently scheduled for November 9th, has been canceled. A revised launch schedule will be evolved over the next few weeks as the launch vehicle status becomes better known and windows of opportunity at KSC have been explored. A delta-MRR will be held at a TBD date to review the resolution of these late-breaking issues and determine readiness for pursuing a new launch opportunity. In the meantime, the SORCE team will continue to run planned launch and mission operations rehearsals to fine tune preparations for launch and early ops commissioning support.
September 26, 2002
The repair and retest of the XPS, SOLSTICE A and SOLSTICE B instruments
occurred during the week of September 16. The instruments have since
all been returned to Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) (SOLSTICE
A via SURF for a quick calibration check). On Monday evening, September
23rd, SOLSTICE B was remounted on the spacecraft. XPS was remounted
Tuesday morning, September 24th. SOLSTICE A arrived late Tuesday
evening and was remounted as a late shift activity. Currently, CPTs
(Comprehensive Test Procedures) are being run on all of the IM instrumentation,
as well as the spacecraft bus. This is scheduled to be completed
by the end of the week. In addition, instrumentation alignment checks
are being performed prior to final installation of all spacecraft
blanketing. The spacecraft is in the final "button-up"
phase in preparation for shipping to launch site facilities at Kennedy
Space Center (KSC) on 10/25. Upcoming OSC activities include a final
solar array deployment test and a series of ground operations tests
that will simulate post launch on orbit operations. A "hi-lite"
this week was a visit to OSC by the new NASA Administrator, Sean
O'keefe. He was touring the OSC spacecraft assembly area today and
Gary Rottman (LASP SORCE Principal Investigator) had an opportunity
to chat with him for a short bit about the SORCE spacecraft.
August 15, 2002
The SORCE Spacecraft is currently on schedule to complete Thermal Vac
test activities in ~ 9 days. During this recent round of testing,
some questionable behavior in some of the IM (Instrument Module)
components has been noted. The TIM instrument appears to have an
issue with one of the four shutter mechanisms (not consistently
responding to open/close commanding). The SOLSTICE B instrument
has exhibited some other than expected behavior in a number of grating
drive scans. And, the MU experienced an unexplained spontaneous
during recent overnight thermal transition testing. There was also some additional concern over some of the returned SIM data, but this is now believed to be operational errors/features associated with the current test track. All
of these issues are currently being evaluated and in some cases special tests are being developed to further the understanding of what might be happening.
July 24, 2002
Post-vibration alignment checks have been completed with no movement
noted. The spacecraft bus and instrument module are currently undergoing
post vibration inspection and preparation for thermal vac which begins
The Monthly Status Review is scheduled for 7/30 at OSC. There will be a Pre-Thermal Vac Briefing held on 7/31 at OSC.
July 18, 2002
-Vibration and shock testing of the spacecraft has been successfully
-Current activities center around post-vibration alignment verification, solar array deployment checks, and preparation for spacecraft thermal vac testing (currently scheduled for 8/3-8/23).
-A Ground Operations Working Group Meeting (GOWG) was held on July 9th and 10th at the KSC launch complex in Florida. The focus of the meeting was a presentation of launch facilities that will be involved in the support of
the SORCE launch and a continuation of launch operations planning for the December 1, 2002 launch.
June 26, 2002
-The plan had been to start acoustics testing on Thursday (6/27). Because
of delays in completing the necessary final spacecraft assembly and
solar array test activities, the window of opportunity with the acoustics
facility was missed, so the current plan is to move forward with vibration testing instead. The acoustic test timeframe is now TBD.
-Solar array deploy testing is expected to begin today and run into tomorrow.
-Vibration test start is now scheduled for late Friday afternoon (6/28) following a Thursday afternoon pre-test briefing. The plan is to complete all three axis prior to the 4th of July holiday. Operations at OSC will be shut down from 7/4-7/7 for a short holiday break.